Frank Ocean Theory
Updated: Apr 4
By: Zaire James
I’m gonna give a theoretical critique right now, but bear with me because it’s a little wordy:
The piece, first unveiled on boysdontcry.co , may be called “The Stairway To Fame” by Frank Ocean. Ocean didn’t simply want to show the piece (the stairwell) in his first livestream where he fans shortly after were promised his next album. He instead showed the workshop and had sounds of buzzsaws and hammers. This was a metaphor for the pre-production phase of his album that has been promised to be released for over a year now. He wanted to show the work that needed to be done before the release. Fans responded by asking questions such as “What are you doing Frank?” and he left them hanging, as he did for the past year. What he wanted to show us though was simple:
It takes time to build. Certain steps (see what I did there) must be taken before a release.
Tonight, however, we see Ocean arranging the steps to this staircase in the middle of the same workshop we saw him work in weeks ago.
These aren’t any ordinary stairs. They wind. They don’t lead you to your destination easily, but they offer a perspective of the room around you before taking you to the next floor. The next floor, of course, being the post-production/release of Ocean’s Sophomore album “Boys Don’t Cry”. The winding stairs are representative of the experience offered to the consumer when listening to his album. It takes you on a winding trip of emotions.
As fancy as these stairs are, it is important to notice one key thing here: These stairs lead to nowhere. Straight to the ceiling.
This is unsettling because all stairs have to lead to somewhere, just like all doors need to lead to somewhere. And this is where Frank’s “next floor” comes in.
Frank Ocean has already been in the spotlight. He knows what post-album release fame feels like. And he just might not like it too much. See, Frank has been ghostwriting for celebrities for years. After Channel Orange, his debut album, he went straight to the top by being featured on both Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Watch The Throne” and Beyonce’s self titled album, a feat that many artists couldn’t even dream of. He knows what the “next floor” is and he probably hates it. The cameras, the media invasion, the loss of privacy and the fans demanding more of him. He was a ghost writer before to avoid all of this. What he enjoys most is the process it takes to work on his art, finally build it, and allow his fans to enjoy it.
What I’m saying is, Frank Ocean’s stairwell is much more than just a stairwell. It’s art. It has a message. It won’t lead to anywhere because Frank Ocean doesn’t want to go any higher. He doesn’t want to see what the next level of fame has for him. He doesn’t want to have people expecting anything else of him because he doesn’t even know what to expect of himself.
Notice that towards the end of the livestream, Ocean sits beneath the stairs for a bit before walking around the room. Even he is acknowledging that he doesn’t want to venture any further. Because once he hits that top of those stairs, there isn’t anywhere left to go. He’s forced to answer the question that all of his fans are wondering: